It seems like if someone is to know anything about Turkey, they know Istanbul is located somewhere within its borders and that it once was called Constantinople. Stephanie and I were able to visit there over the weekend with a few friends and discovered what millions of people have through the years…that Istanbul is absolutely beautiful.
Istanbul spans two continents – Europe and Asia. We were fortunate enough to have a hotel that overlooked two of the most historic sites in this beautiful city, Sultanahmet (more commonly known as the Blue Mosque) and the Hagia Sophia. We ate breakfast and had drinks on the hotel rooftop terrace with a background that looked like something out of a movie.
The Blue Mosque is the largest in all of Turkey sporting six minarets which are lit quite beautifully throughout the night. It is still in use and five times a day people enter through its gates to pray. Visitors enter through a separate entrance where they remove their shoes and the ladies are asked to wear a covering over their head. The inside is just as breathtaking as the outside with a gigantic room with various railings marking off places for prayer, where visitors are asked not to step inside. The dome and walls are covered in blue Iznik tile, giving the moniker “The Blue Mosque”. A note of interest, the Blue Mosque was designed by the same architect who built the Taj Mahal in India.
The Hagia Sophia is currently a museum. It was originally built as a church by the Byzantines in the sixth century. It was converted into a mosque after the taking of Constantinople (yes, Istanbul’s former name) in 1453. In 1935, Turkey’s president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, turned the Hagia Sofia into a museum and since there have been movements to reveal some of the original decorations. In my opinion, the Blue Mosque is more beautiful from the outside, but it pales in comparison to the inside of the Hagia Sofia. The mixture of church’s decorations revealed beneath the plaster of the conversion to a mosque are astonishing.
What’s amazing about these two beautiful places is that they exist right next to each other adjoined by a beautiful square filled with tourists.
Another beautiful site to see was the underground cistern which reminded the nerd in me of the Dwarf city of Dwarrowdelf in Moria.
There are plenty of other things to see in Istanbul which we hope to visit a few more times while we are staying in Turkey.